++ THE MINUSES ++

Dear Reader, an interview is a chance to practice the high art of conversation. A conversation is a plus!

I bring to your attention the June 9, 2020 plus of an interview that the most lovely human and excellent poetry reader, Dayna Patterson conducted with me and The Minuses. Dayna and I met in our conversation on the Poetry Hour (4-5pm PDT) that she hosts for Western C.A.R.E.S. (Community, Activities, Resources, Education, Support) at Western Washington University.

Watch and listen to conversation here (use password: 8Q.A!M.?)

photos and compilation by Vincent K. Wong; background image by Jami Macarty

The Poetry Hour interview took place over Zoom, of course. The photos and compilation above are by Vincent K. Wong, my good pal and a terrific experimental photographer. Vincent attended the event, with 40 other souls, and took these photos of Dayna and me.

I didn’t realize the background image of Sonoran Desert and its saguaro cacti came through and interpentrated the live image of me, shifting foreground and background, the live and the still until Vincent sent me the series of photos he took during the event. I love the photos and the special effects are a perfect visual component to a quality of feeling I’m trying to get at in the poems of The Minuses.

photo by Vincent K. Wong; background image by Jami Macarty

Here are the questions Dayna Patterson asked me during the interview:

  1. We’re here to discuss your recent collection, The Minuses. When I think of the phrase, “the minuses,” I usually hear it in conjunction with “the pluses and the minuses.” With that title holding only the last part of the phrase, I expected that the book would press into themes of loss, negation, and deprivation. It certainly did that, and in ways that surprised me. For example, the book seems to be built from the scrap of a wrecked relationship. Is that an accurate description? Would you read the first piece for us and talk about why you selected this title for your book? 
  2. There’s a lot of verticality in this collection, a motif that in some places conjures, for me, a feeling of vertigo, and in other places a kind of longing to be detached, above the fray, so to speak. How were you working with notions of verticality vs. horizontality in this collection? (Read “Flight Hours,” “Mountain Hypotenuse,” and/or “Nor’easter”)
  3. How and when did you become so intimately acquainted with the landscape of the Sonoran Desert and its environs? What was your research process for the poems in this collection? (Read “Monsoon Desert,” “At Gravity’s Feet,” & “Music 5:30.”) I’m particularly interested in the phrase “I sent myself into the desert to become a third person” in “At Gravity’s Feet.”
  4. Can you talk about the way these poems lean into the colon and the double colon? For you, does the colon represent a kind of mathematical equation rendered into syntax? (Read “By Virtue of And”)
  5. A poem that really resonated for me from this collection is “Door Ratio.” Would you mind reading that one for us?
  6. Your notes section is expansive, specific, and generous. Why include the Latin name for each species you mention in the notes? How do you decide what to put in the notes to a collection?
  7. Is there anything else you’d like to share about the making of this book?
  8. What are you working on now or next?
  9. Who are some of the writers or artists that inspire you? In particular, are there contemporary poets you’d like to recommend to our audience today?

And, here I am endeavoring to arrive at answers, to be responsive.

photo by Vincent K. Wong; background image by Jami Macarty

Dayna’s and my conversation was followed by a Q&A with our audience of listeners and joining souls.

Watch and listen to conversation here (use password: 8Q.A!M.?)

: : : :

+ Thank you bows to Goddess Dayna Patterson for reading The Minuses, for her thoughtful questions, and for featuring and hosting me on the Poetry Hour for Western C.A.R.E.S. at Western Washington University.

+ Thank you bows to Western C.A.R.E.S. at Western Washington University and Goddess Athena Roth for offering her very fine administrative support during the event.

+ Thank you bows to the 40 souls with their beautiful ears and minds who joined me et al for the June 9 interview and conversation.

+ Thank you bows (continuous!) to publisher Stephanie G’Schwind, editor Donald Revell, et al interns at the Center for Literary Publishing (CLP) for making The Minuses with me.

+ Thank you bows to you, dear reader, for the gift of your attention!

++ The Minuses ++

Dear Reader, I want you to meet some of the wonderful people who, along with you, are the pluses, congregating around The Minuses.

March 5-7: The Minuses debuted at the Association of Writers & Writing Program (AWP) conference, which took place in San Antonio, Texas.

The Center for Liteary Publishing booth and table at AWP; see The Minuses at table center!

There, publisher Stephanie G’Schwind hosted me for a book signing at the Center for Literary Publishing booth. In the photo above: the Center for Literary Publishing booth all set up and ready for the conference. That’s The Minuses centered on the table! Below, that’s the lovely intern (name lost in the shuffle, on left) with publisher, Stephanie G’Schwind (right).

Lovely helpful intern (left) with my publisher, Stephanie G’Schwind

At the beginning of March were early days and much about Covid-19 was still unfolding. There had been much debate about whether or not to cancel the AWP conference. When the conference went ahead, thousands of registrants cancelled their attendance. Imagine a poet’s heart. A poet has waited for years to find a publisher for her book, and that’s finally happened, only the world is cancelling. Of course, my poet’s heart is only part of the equation. Many others had a change of heart, deciding that conference attendance was too risky. As I assessed the risk for myself, my gut guided me that it was safe to go. So I did! Others join me there…

I’m glad I went to the conference. Lovely people were seen and communed with (picture above): Danielle Hanson, James Arthur, John Barger, Trish Hopkinson in a Plath (!) T-shirt, Beth Ann Fennelly, Stephanie G’Schwind, Rusty Morrison, Andrea, Jim Johnstone (w/John Barger), Kenneth Pobo, Adrienne Drobnies, and Sean Singer. Special others (not pictured): Emily Perez, Sara Meeks, Desirée Alvarez, Aaron Graham… et al. Typing their names, remembering them fills my heart again with the pleasure of their company. Plus, my publisher sold all the books she brought, which I happily signed. Smiles all around.

: : : :

March 22: The celebratory reading of The Minuses in Tucson, Arizona was planned. Joining me: long-time poet friend, Eleanor Kedney, whose poetry collection Between the Earth and Sky was released in early March. With a lovely venue booked, invitations to 125 people sent, and cupcakes ordered, Eleanor and I were excited. So was Covid-19; cases were on the rise. So to be sensitive to our guests’ concerns and still hold our event, we decided to move the reading online to Blackboard, a platform available through Simon Fraser University. This was before Zoom!

The covers: Between Earth and the Sky & The Minuses

My generous partner, John Welch, set up the event and hosted me, Eleanor, and 50 supportive souls who showed up for us and our poems. The event came off with ease and joy. Plus, our gathering together let me know that my community was still there, congregating around me and my poems.

: : : :

+ Thank you bows to Stephanie G’Schwind and each of the interns at the Center for Literary Publishing (CLP) booth at AWP for making The Minuses available and for your support to me during the conference.

+ Thank you bows to everyone who visited me at the CLP booth, who bestowed the best of all book-buying support, and who shared conversation and meals with me at the conference!

+ Thank you bows to John Welch for setting up and hosting the March 22 reading!

+ Thank you bows to Eleanor Kedney for reading with me!

+ Thank you bows to the 50 souls who attended the March 22 reading!

+ Thank you bows to you, dear reader, for the gift of your attention!

The Minuses

 

After years of working on the poems,

after signing off on the final proof,

after burning the owl-high stack of manuscript versions,

after disposing of every last ashen comma and colon,

after the boxes containing the books arrived at my door,

The Minuses at my door

after the boxes containing the books were opened,

and, after eyeing and drinking in the realization that The Minuses is in print! is published! books are in hand!

I’m resting on my laurels*.

 

  • *After spontaneously using this phrase, I did a bit of reading on the orgin of the laurel wreath and its associates in Greek mythology, namely Eros, the god of love, Apollo, patron of archery, and Daphne, a river nymph. The story: Apollo made fun of Eros’ use of arrows, so Eros took revenge by shooting Apollo with a gold arrow, instilling him with love for Daphne, and shot Daphne with a lead arrow, instilling her with hatred for Apollo. To be free of him, Daphne was turned into a laurel tree, which is evergreen because Apollo rendered it thus. Fashioning himself a wreath out of the laurel branches, Apollo turned Daphne into a cultural symbol for him and other musicians and poets. Rather perfect, yes?

 


Current mood: a yellow rose and desert monsoon, gratitude-infusion!

Thank you bows to my publisher: Stephanie G’Schwind; the photographer of the cover image: Liz Kemp, and the horizon of poets, who offered their endorsements to the book: Gillian Conoley, Claudia Keelan, and Daphne Marlatt.

 

! Books !

It is the Muses

Who have caused me
to be honored: they 
taught me their craft

-Sappho

The Cover

First the possessive. My books. The Minuses, a full-length collection forthcoming (Feb 2020) in the Mountain West Poetry Series published by the Center for Literary Publishing joins my three chapbooks, Instinctive Acts, Mind of Spring, and Landscape of The Wait.

Don Revell and I would very much like to publish your manuscript as the spring 2020 MWPS title if it’s still available… 

-Stephanie G’Schwind

I received the offer to publish on Labor Day, September 2 at 4:29 PM (PST). I had spent the entire day laboring over a new version of the manuscript, inputting edits and so on. At five O’clock I saved and closed the file, then checked email. A half hour earlier, Stephanie G’Schwind, director of the Center for Literary Publishing wrote to me: Don Revell and I would very much like to publish your manuscript as the spring 2020 MWPS title if it’s still available…

What to say. This. I’m over Saturn’s moon. Over Jupiter’s moons.

That plus Laura Linney’s character Sarah in Love Actually when Karl is going to stay. Like that.Love Actually

 

 

 

The autumn months were a happy flurry of editing, proofing, selecting the cover, and various other things that go into making a book a book. Tuesday, December 17 at 2:25 PM (MST) I signed off on The Minuses. The book is scheduled to be out for Valentine’s Day. Can you think of better sandwich for a poet than one made between Labor and Love? More and more soon, soon…

After I signed off, I became aware of how mentally fatigued I was. The months of proofreading and decision-making took a toll. When I looked within for words and that feeling I have for them–a love affair–it was absent. Where was it? Tired!

But nothing a ritual fire couldn’t clear!

I gathered all of the hardcopy (used on both sides) versions of the manuscript I could find and burned them! As I sat in the heat of the fire I chanted gratitude to the poems that are The Minuses and welcomed those that may come:

if you will come 

I shall put out 
fresh pillows for 
you to rest on

-Sappho

 

Second books written by others. As in 2018, this year I intended to read a book a day. With travel and the vicissitudes of life that became read as much as I can when I can.

Above some of the books that I look up to from 2019…

I resolved to start this reading practice (at the close of 2017), after becoming acutely aware of the sky scrapers of books surrounding my desk. I seemed to be coveting books, but not reading them–at least not at the rate I was buying them. Simultaneous to this awareness was the co-arising of anxiety at how many books there were towering, looming. After the overwhelm subsided, I decided to start reading… just to see what I could do. Et voila!

From this reading practice, I have learned about:

  • Attention–what keeps mine
  • Comprehension–it’s dependent on attention
  • Taste–how not to judge myself for what I like or don’t
  • Company–what I read for
  • Inspiration–o, to read what hurries me to the page

Above some more of the books that I look up to from  2019

Here:

[ the Results! ] #mypersonalBigRead2019       

166: Full-length collections of poetry
64: Chapbooks (poetry & nonfiction)
51: Journals
22: Fiction, Nonfiction, Memoir
____________________________
Total = 303 individual volumes in 2019!

[ last year’s Results! ] #mypersonalBigRead2018       

205: Full-length collections of poetry
67: Chapbooks (poetry & nonfiction)
21: Journals
7: Fiction, Nonfiction, Memoir
____________________________
Total = 300 individual volumes in 2018!

Notably, I read more than twice the number of journals, more than three times the fiction, nonfiction, memoir, and three more titles in 2019. The stacks in all categories continue to melt and so does the anxiety and overwhelm. Replacing them: confidence and the knowledge gained from the experience of this deep reading practice. There are still some hours left in 2019. To books!

ONWARD!